10 Orange Zest Substitutes [In Baking, Curries, Stir-fries & More]

The fresh zing of orange can add the most wonderful flavors to nearly every dish. With a burst of citrus and a sweet and sour aftertaste, orange is one of the most commonly used flavors in baking, salads, or even just for fixing a drink. 

Orange zest is made from the colored outside portion of an orange peel. It is a quick fix when you want to add some tanginess to a dish and give it a more wholesome flavor profile.

If you’re making orange zest at home, avoid the pith (the white part of the skin) of an orange. The pith is bitter and will ruin the flavor of the dish you are cooking.

But you may not always have some orange zest with you. Or what if you are allergic to zest or simply don’t like using zest? Well, luckily, there are quite a few excellent ingredients you can use instead of orange zest. In salads, lemon extract and orange extract are two obvious choices as they will give a similar flavor profile as orange zest. Other great alternatives are dried orange peel and grapefruit zest if you want to create a near replica of orange zest while adding more orangey goodness to your dessert. 

Here are 10 healthy substitutes for orange zest when a dish needs some tang and you don’t want to lose out on the sharp tang of the ingredient. 

Orange Zest Substitutes

1. Lemon Zest

Orange zest is an age-old favorite of bakers. Whether it’s used in icing or batter, this secret ingredient does its job of bringing a unique flavor profile to a cake very well. 

So, a good replacement for one citrus fruit is obviously another citrus fruit. And lemons are easier to come across in a kitchen. If you’re wondering how to substitute lemon zest for orange zest, just take some lemon peels and scrape away the exterior. And there you have it, a ready-to-use orange zest substitute. 

Lemon Zest

Make sure you avoid the bits near the stem as that area tends to be bitter. You can also add a dribble of honey to compensate for the sourness of the lemon.

2. Apple Cider Vinegar

If the recipe calls for orange zest and you don’t have any in stock, another proxy ingredient you can use as a substitute for orange zest is apple cider vinegar (ACV). It has a sweet undertone to it that matches orange zest more. 

ACV also has added benefits when used for baking. Vinegar helps baked goods to rise properly, so you can expect your muffins and cakes to be softer and fluffier than usual, making it an excellent substitute for orange zest in baking

But make sure that the acidic content that you use in your substitutes doesn’t end up killing the yeast you use in baking. 

When adding ACV, add only half the quantity of orange zest that you would normally use. So use half a teaspoon of ACV in place of 1 teaspoon orange zest.

3. Grapefruit Zest

A common addition to fruit-based desserts, orange zest is a smart way to add a dash of nutrition to an otherwise unhealthy dessert that we can’t help but crave.

If you need a substitute for orange zest in desserts, look no further than grapefruit zest. Another fruit in the citrus family, grapefruit is also a large fruit, so you will always have plenty of zest to go around. 

Considering that it is a little sweeter than oranges, it makes for a tasty replacement when you are running short on oranges. So there’s your answer to what you can use instead of orange peel. Just use it in the same proportion as you would use orange zest 1:1 ratio.

4. Dried Orange Peel

Can you buy dried orange peel to use as a replacement for orange zest in desserts? Yes, but be careful. 

Dried Orange Peel

Dried orange peel can be more potent than fresh orange zest. Make sure to use only one-third of the quantity you would use otherwise.

5. Orange Extract

Fruits or veggies, you choose, orange zest can add some oomph to any salad. Not only does the sourness add some freshness to the salad, its slight sweetness also balances the salad’s flavors and elevates a simple dish.

But if you don’t have any orange zest in stock and are confused about what to use in place of orange zest, sub in some orange extract in your salad. Orange extract is essentially a concentrated version of orange zest made from the peel of an orange. 

As orange extract has more concentrated flavors, use 1/4 teaspoon of orange extract if your salad recipe calls for 1 teaspoon orange zest. Substitute orange extract for orange zest and no one will be the wiser. 

6. Lemon Extract

Another citrus fruit like orange, lemon can easily step in when you need some orange zest. Its sour taste will give your salad a delightful zing and add to the health benefits. 

However, remember lemon extract is very potent and must not be used in the same quantities as orange zest. 

Use it in the same ratios as orange extract in your salad — 1/4 teaspoon of lemon extract for 1 teaspoon of orange zest.

7. Tamarind Paste

Though not as well known, orange zest is an innovative way to add new flavors to a curry or stir-fry. The sweet zestiness combined with the slight sourness enhances the other flavors of a dish. Add it to a spicy curry to see it at its full force.

So when you don’t have some orange zest on hand, you can’t just use any substitute for curries or stir-frys. Such dishes make use of other spices as well, so adding an orange zest substitute that is sweet will do more harm than good. That is why tamarind paste is the ideal replacement. 

Tamarinds have a distinctively sour and tangy flavor, so it needs to be used sparingly. Not only does it blend well with other spices, but it is also considered a spice of its own. It brings just the right amount of tanginess that you would want to see in your next dish.

Tamarind Paste

Use only half a teaspoon of tamarind paste for every teaspoon of orange zest.

8. Dry Mango Powder

Typically used in Asian dishes, dry mango powder is also known as “amchur” in the Indian subcontinent. This is another great orange zest substitute. It can work wonders if you are looking to match the tangy flavor given by orange zest. 

Dry Mango Powder

It is slightly sweeter than orange zest but can sub in really well by adding a unique twist to most recipes that ask for orange zest. Like tamarind, use mango powder sparingly when substituting.

9. Fruit Concentrate

Orange zest has got some really amazing things going for it. With the sophisticated taste that it adds to a cranberry sauce, many people find it hard to find a good replacement for orange zest. 

The best option would be to lean towards a citrus fruit concentrate. The main reason citrus fruit concentrate is used as a replacement is because of its sweet and sour flavor that is much like that of orange zest. It can help balance both flavors in a refreshing way. 

To match its intensity, use 3/4 teaspoon of orange or lemon concentrate in place of 1 teaspoon orange zest.

10. Orange Juice

Did you accidentally throw away the orange peels you need for your cranberry sauce? Don’t fret yet. 

You can always use orange juice as a reliable substitute for orange zest in cranberry sauce. It will recreate the same citrusy flavor that you would find in the zest. 

Not sure how orange juice can be substituted for orange zest

Orange Juice

Simply use 1 teaspoon of orange juice in place of 1 teaspoon of orange zest.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should You Consume Orange Zest?

Oranges themselves have a variety of dietary benefits, and the zest does not fall behind. 

Orange zest is a powerhouse of nutrients. It is a good source of vitamin C (even higher than the fruit itself), which builds immunity and keeps infections at bay, and vitamin E which fights free radicals in your body. It is rich in fiber, provitamin A, folate, riboflavin, thiamine, vitamin B6, calcium, and plant compounds called polyphenols. 

So, if you can stomach the sour taste, orange zest can offer a host of health benefits.

Can Orange Essential Oil Be Substituted For Orange Zest? 

Orange essential oil can be substituted for Orange zest but only for baking. 

The acidic flavor in orange zest that’s part of its charm is missing in the essential oil. That is why it is not recommended to use it as much, but if you really don’t have any other alternative, orange essential oil can also work just fine. 

Some people may also suffer from sensitivities and allergies when it comes to using essential oils in their food or on their skin. In case you already suffer from essential oil sensitivity, skip orange essential oil in your diet and use the other alternatives listed here.

Final Considerations

Orange zest can not only add some complexity to a dish but also provide a plethora of health benefits.

It plays a unique role in how a dish will taste. So while you can use a replacement for orange zest in your dishes customizing it to get a close enough taste you might as well take a trip to the store and get an orange. 

But if that’s not possible, I hope you have found the right alternative you need for your next cooking adventure.

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